Thoughts on H.G. Wells

You know when you’re reading a book and it references another book you’ve read and you want to go back and re-read the referenced book? That happened to me while reading Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time and The Map of the Sky; based on H. G. Wells’ books, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds respectively. Having enjoyed both of Palma’s books, I wanted to catch up with the classics. The last time I remember reading Wells’s books was high school, so naturally I was curious to see what I would think of the stories now. As it turns out, as an adult, I’m not a fan of Wells. I have fond memories of these stories, of being fascinated by the books, but no longer. What didn’t I like? Nothing specific about the stories themselves — the premises are wonderful — but it was the inconsiderate, uncaring, and obnoxious actions of the male characters. And, whenever (infrequently too) a woman shows up in the story, she’s relegated to being a slight character with no real value to the plot or the male characters. I know, that’s not a new revelation, but I was surprised by my immediate and intense reaction to it.

Before I turn what is supposed to be two short reviews into a rant, let’s get to the reviews themselves. I give you, The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds.

The Time MachineThe Time Machine

After settling in with The Time Machine, I soon realized I didn’t really remember much about this book. Or, at least my memories were fuzzy. I decided about half way through that I had a very big dislike of the Time Traveller. He was arrogant, uncaring, and prejudice. I get the arrogance, he wouldn’t have invented time travel without it, but the rest I could have done without.

We begin with a lecture of sorts where the Time Traveller shows his guests a small device that he claims can travel in time. He also claims to have built a larger functioning device that he plans to use to travel in time. Which he apparently does, meeting with two vastly different groups of humans — the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are a group of people so simple that he can’t believe this is what has become of the human race. In this same time, he also comes in contact with the Morlocks; a species that lives underground in dark tunnels. He does his best to categorize the humans he’s met but is disgusted when he figures out the relationship between the Eloi and Morlocks. When he’s able to escape and travels to his own place in time, he regales his contemporaries with stories of his travels.

There are so many fascinating aspects to this story. Time travel! But, Wells drove me crazy with his ideas of the human race. The pervasive idea that the Time Traveller was so much smarter, better shall we say, than the people he encountered was repulsive. It ruined this book for me. I can dislike a character and still enjoy a book but not in this case. I tried to become fascinated by the time travel but I was too far gone to get any enjoyment out of it.

The War of the WorldsThe War of the Worlds

When an unidentified object lands just south of London, residents are left dumbfounded. Could it really be aliens from Mars? When actual aliens emerge from the pods, all of London is left  running for its collective life as the aliens begin a methodical destruction of the planet. We follow the narrator as he makes his way back to his wife, suffering under the trampling of the Martians and witnessing horrors he never imagined possible.

The War of the Worlds is written as if it were a factual account of the narrator’s experiences. I liked that. It takes what could be a basic story and makes it feel very visceral. It did annoy me that I knew absolutely nothing about the narrator beside the fact that he was a scientist and was married. He does recount one part of the story as a second hand account from his brother but that’s all you get to know about him. I found that frustrating.

I did find this story much more interesting than The Time Machine and I think that had to do with the fact that there was a lot more action. In parts of The Time Machine, it felt as if little was happening but in The War of the Worlds, it was all action all the time. I do wish, and this goes for both books, that Wells had taken a few minutes to name his narrators; a pet peeve of mine. The intense dislike I had for The Time Machine didn’t appear when reading The War of the Worlds, in fact, I liked it better but if I had put this book down at any point, the possibly that I wouldn’t have picked it back up was there.

So, this brings me back to the start again. I’m not a Wells fan. Should I be? Anything I should consider?

The Time Machine
H.G. Wells
Atria Books
eISBN: 978145165886

The War of the Worlds
By H.G. Wells
Atria Books
eISBN: 9781451687989

Best of 2012

It’s that time of year when I begin to panic. Yes, panic and it has nothing to do with the holidays. What worries me, causes lack of sleep, and makes me ponder endlessly over a glass of wine (or two)? It’s best of lists. That’s stupid, I know, but here’s the thing — I always look back over the year and think about what happened, good and bad, vacations, time with family and friends, and of course, the books I read. So, to alleviate some anxiety, I’m going to share a best of list with you. Whether you like it or not.

Last year I had this genius idea (I thought it was genius and I’m not taking any feedback on that!:)). Instead of picking a list of say 10 books (how could I pick a number one), I would go month by month and pick the books I liked that month. Now, you may see a book on this list and then look at my review and notice I didn’t rate the book high at the time. The reason I picked it? All gut feeling. I’m telling you which books resonate with me, even months later in some cases, so I can say, ‘You know what, try it.’

January
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
The Secret Diary of a Princess: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Melanie Clegg
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

February
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Technologists by Matthew Pearl

March
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate #1) by Gail Carriger
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (read along, no review)
Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate #2) by Gail Carriger

April
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

May
Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3) by Gail Carriger
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (read along, no review)
Railsea by China Mieville

June
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4) by Gail Carriger
Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5) by Gail Carriger

July
Among Others by Jo Walton
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
In The Woods by Tana French

August
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

September
The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

October
Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson

November
The Likeness by Tana French

December
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I read more fantasy and less historical fiction than in earlier years. And, as always, I have a few series going — not something that I see changing in the New Year. A good series is this reader’s downfall. It’s interesting how my reading habits change, even over the course of a year. One of the reasons I like to keep lists is to see my progress over a year’s worth of reading, that, and I really do like a good list.

OK, the big question — what did you read this year? Anything memorable, wonderful, something you wish you hadn’t read? Share, share. It’s not as if my to read list is getting any shorter anyway.

The Sunday Salon – The Short Version

A friend is training for a triathlon and I sometimes swim with her on Saturdays. This weekend, I hauled myself out of bed on Saturday and Sunday and managed to swim about 1.5+ miles in two days. For a person who doesn’t exercise regularly, this turned out to be very tiring. I’m moving slowly if you’re curious at all but I feel pretty good. I may do this again someday in the future, if I manage to regain the ability to lift my arms above my head again that is. So, today is a short post day. Also, I have to write some reviews and since I’m in the mood, I’m going to do just that.

  • I finished The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay this week and really enjoyed it. I’m working on the review now and hope to have it posted next week.
  • I wrapped up my re-read of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. This re-read took me about seven weeks and I finished five books before finally coming to the last page of this one. It was a labor of love though and I’m very happy I took it on again.
  • It being Shark Week, I felt I needed to up my shark reading and picked up The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey from the library. It was good, so good. I really do enjoy reading about great white sharks, little dork that I am. And I was also very happy to be swimming in a pool instead of open water this weekend because I’m sure this book would have made me want to swim quickly for shore.
  • I started The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin yesterday and plan to spend some time with it today too.

So, that wraps up this week’s reading for me. Read anything good? Buy anything good? Visit your local library?

Happy Sunday.

Confessions of a Supposed Read Along Addict or Amy’s Weird Year of Reading, So Far

 In the few years I’ve been a blogger, I’ve only participated in two or three read alongs. The reason for this — I like to read at my own pace and I usually only participate if it’s a book I really (really!) want to read. In most cases (for instance The Lord of the Rings and The Historian), the read alongs featured books I was planning to re-read anyway so I signed up. This year, two months into 2012, I’ve signed up for two. It’s like I can’t help myself.

Here’s how it went down.

Iris at Iris on Books said she was planning to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell this year and asked if anyone would be interested in joining her. Having already decided to re-read this one, and probably early in the year, I raised my hand, yep, I would join her. And so I did. More info here if you want to join.

Then The Little Read Reviewer goes and posts this about a Lies of Locke Lamora read along. I hesitated. Two read alongs? Yes, I would do it. And yes, I would buy this book.

Seriously, it’s like I can’t so no anymore.

So, I’m two for two on the joining this year. I’m a notoriously bad joiner. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m involuntarily pushing myself to join more this year as if it were some unknown resolution only my brain knows about and is keeping from me. Yeah, that doesn’t sound totally paranoid.

I should probably not write when tired.

Anyway, there you have it.

Happy Sunday.